Where does the eternal youth of good old cinema come from?

Cinema is one of the few arts that can fit into the mall model economy and remain autonomous. Films are becoming obsolete, but cinema manages to remain up-to-date for the time being. Many researchers consider cinema, especially its depiction of the anthropocene, to be the self-consciousness of civilization or the black box, the flight recorder of globalized financial capital. Unlike literature, cinema is jealous of everything superfluous in its text. The cinematic idiom knows no measure in the pursuit of brevity and succinctness. Even TikTok tries to use the language of film. 

Global distribution systems include the distribution rights to screenings in cinemas and on major streaming platforms. Accordingly, films with a certain distribution potential are eligible for the distribution list. Cinemas play a fairly modest technical role in this system and depend on the distributor’s position. For example, the shorter the duration of the screening, the more profitable it is for the movie theater since more tickets can be sold. However, we see that films are now often longer than two hours. Shorter forms have taken the form of serials.

Today, the film’s distribution release is only possible within the framework of the industrial system and institutions. This system is conditioned by current economic relations, in which the viewer is transformed into a consumer. As a rule, the success of a film is measured by the volume of consumption, revenue, i.e. box office receipts. Smart films and arthouse are becoming a kind of gourmet consumerism. On the other hand, as philosopher and film theorist Oleg Aronson noted: “Those same films that cannot compete with blockbusters either in terms of budget or audience are forced to find their ways of being present in the film market. The latter often involves them trying to develop a festival niche, where they present themselves as art and therefore count on a ‘deferred’ profit.” [1]

Aristotle contrasted economics with chrematistics (the accumulation of wealth as an end in itself, as a supra-objective, as the worship of profit). Since chrematistics is next to economics, people mistake it for economics itself; but it is not economics. Because chrematism does not follow nature, it is aimed at exploitation. It employs usury, which is understandably hated because it draws its profits from money itself, not from things. The term chrematism was used to describe capitalism by K. Marx, Arno Peters, and others.

Are derivatives the driver of rebel videoart?

Researchers predict that the film industry will become one of the world’s top five industries by 2040. The global movies and entertainment market size was valued at USD 90.92 billion in 2021 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.2% from 2022 to 2030. [2]

This growth was made possible in large part by stockholder equity. An alley of Walt Disney’s biggest movie studios – Disney Pictures, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, Pixar, and 21st Century Fox – before the coronary crisis collectively brought in an average of $4 billion a year in box-office revenue (after payments to movie theaters). It is not hard to see, chrematicism and speculative expectations are a driver for the modern film industry.

The Wolf of Wall Street (Scorsese, 2013)

Many researchers note the external pressure of capital on film as a privileged field of investment. Today, the commodification of cinema is becoming so systematic that the topic of cinema death (as art) is emerging. On the other hand, current economic relations have led to the development of a dichotomy in film production. The entire array of films can be divided into mainstream and art-cinema. Within a critique of contemporary art, the art-house is mentioned in connection with its rebel cinema reservation role.

Creative freedom and viewers’ focus

In this regard, the question of the film budget is part of a more general question about the alternative in the cinema world. We are talking primarily about so-called “independent” films.

We should note that film financing does not necessarily carry with chrématism and the vicious nature of capital. We can talk about local, governmental or private foundations as much as we like. More revealing in this regard is the author’s sacrifice of his own, years of hard-earned money to make his film. Here we are talking about the multifaceted and widespread phenomenon of filmmaking, where artistic films are made on one’s own initiative, very often at one’s own expense. This can be an act of self representation to the world, an expierence, and even a kind of consumerist hecatomb or potlatch. And this is where it becomes interesting what kind of films the filmmaker makes and how free are his or her creative choices.

Speaking of creative freedom, we cannot ignore the freedom of the viewer’s interest. If the viewer’s focus is conditioned by marketing, the film criticism institute, and digital platforms algorithms, then the viewer’s freedom is mediated by the film industry, in many ways by its driver, including speculative financial instruments, and derivatives. The viewer’s interest, focus, and cathexis become a commodity. The viewer turns into a consumer with the subsequent objectification of the consumed creative product. 

If we are talking about non-mass cinema, art house, and video art, then these visual forms are more often referred to contemporary art, which has passed an even longer way of commodification. And at this distance contemporary art will give a head start over cinematography.

In such a situation, the author has no choice but to take place within the exploitative system. It doesn’t matter if it’s a mainstream distribution system or contemporary visual art. Attempts to bypass the intermediaries and appeal directly to the viewer on the Internet are practically doomed to failure. The algorithms for monopolizing digital platforms are based on quantitative measures of viewer engagement as a condition for monetization. As a result, the Internet has become a field of viewer capitalization and deepening commodification. Thus the predetermination of viewer focus can define the place for film and the boundaries of creative freedom. In this regard, today the budget and length of the film have a systemic function, not just an auxiliary technical role.

In this regard, films and self-organized cultural institutions that are put out of the bracket are of interest, as if they do not exist on the agenda. They are marginalia, notes in the margins of a book, by which the reader will probably be judged many years later. Because they are non-systemic entities, their existence is usually short-lived. The Short Movie Club Film Festival “Nefiltravanae Kino” is a live experiment and an attempt to generalize and systematize this experience.